To feel angry is to be human, and all humans experience anger. But when anger gets out of control, we can find ourselves in trouble.
You’ll always be better off if you can spot anger in yourself, before doing something you regret. No one is above feeling angry. You might notice changes in how you are moving; you might feel it coming on in your thoughts; you might notice different sensations in your body.
Name your anger
Anger can take many forms and be called by many names. Because many of us don’t like anger, or don’t like to think of ourselves as angry, we may call it something else. Some names depict very powerful emotions. Other names are more like children of anger.
On one end of the spectrum there’s: Annoyed, Frustrated or Irritated. On the other end of the spectrum there’s: Fury, Rage or Wrath. There are many words and names that can be brainstormed if you think about it. What are some words that suit you?
Different Faces of anger
There are many ways people do anger. Some try to hold it in. Some let it fly. Either way, it’s usually felt and it’s usually seen. Many try to hold it in for a while only to have it explode later on.
Do you pace? Do you sigh? Do you get loud? Do you start to curse? Do you start to say mean things? Do you talk through gritted teeth? Do your hands start moving around wildly? Do you intrude on someone’s personal space? Do you hit or throw objects?
Do you turn it inwards onto yourself? Do you inflict physical harm to yourself? Do you become super self-critical? Do you try to drown out the feeling with substances or bad habits? Do you feel more depressed or lethargic? Do you become more anxious?
Identify your anger level
One way to gain control over your anger is to see it coming first. All too often people only recognize their anger when they are already at their “Point of no return”.
Construct a hierarchy
It’s best to do this exercise when in a calm state, when you have extra time and when you know you have resources around you to feel in control.
On a blank sheet of paper, plot a line graph with numbers 1 to 10. After brainstorming all the ways in which you experience and demonstrate anger, plot these signs along the graph. For instance, you might notice your stomach is flip flops at around level 3. You might notice your jaw tends to clench around level 5. You might notice you have “nasty” thoughts at level 4. You might image yourself punching the top of a table at level 6. Yelling in someone’s face may be your level 9. The exact picture varies from person to person. What’s important is that you are honest with yourself and you become increasingly familiar with your own signs.
Have an emergency plan
Once you have plotted your graph, note the area where you know you still have control over your own actions. Then note the area where (you suspect) you may be past the point of no control. Plan ahead of time, when you have your most rational brain with you, what you could do at different points along this graph. Commit to what you would do if you reached a certain level. Create a realistic plan to put this idea into action.
Safely discharge anger
Anger is a useful emotion. It can tell us something is wrong or that something needs your attention. But in the short term, until you sort out what is needed, it is important to find outlets for this powerful energetic emotion.
You could do some form of physical exercise, work on a project, express it through art, bang on a drum, or sing along with your angriest music. It is powerful energy that needs to go somewhere. If you do not solve the problem underneath, this energy will return again. But in the meanwhile, seek out healthy outlets so that you can get your system back to a more steady state.
Getting help for anger
As you know, what we do with our anger is not a game. All too often our actions lead to undesirable consequences. All too often we feel stuck in unproductive modes for handling our emotions.
If you believe you could use assistance in managing your anger, or even if you just want to walk through these scenarios with a safe person, please contact me.
Lisa T Perry, MEd, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is a Licensed Professional Counselor who helps people safely work through and channel their human emotions.